San Francisco’s Biscuits and Blues to reopen after 5-year closure

profile photo
By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

Five years after a pipe burst and flooded out San Francisco’s venerable Biscuits and Blues nightclub, its stage will come to life Thursday for the club’s grand reopening. 

The reopening of the famed blues club stands against a backdrop of rampant store closures in the Union Square neighborhood that have cast a pall on San Francisco’s shopping hub. But Biscuits and Blues owner Steven Suen is optimistic about the future, believing that the neighborhood is ready for a rebirth. It just needs the blues. 

“Part of the blues is you express your sorrow,” Suen said, sitting in the newly revamped nightclub. “But you have hope tomorrow.” 

The nightclub shuttered five years back after a water pipe burst in an upper floor inside the neighboring Jack in the Box restaurant. The dispute over responsibility thrust Suen into a four-year court battle that eventually ended in a settlement. 

“There’s a whole lot of lawyers on the other end and we’re just independent,” Suen said. “It took a long time.” 

The club is scheduled to reopen on Thursday night with a weekend run of shows. Suen said he’ll see how it goes before plunging back into the regular booking. For nearly three decades, Biscuits and Blues has been a mainstay on the Bay Area blues circuit with touring acts and Bay Area bands gracing its funky stage. Suen has not only focused the booking on veteran acts but also up-and-comers. 

Joe Rosato Jr./NBC Bay Area Owner Steven Suen sits inside Biscuits and Blues, which is scheduled to reopen Thursday night following a five-year closure due to a flood.

“No one will give them a chance and I will give them a chance,” Suen said. “Even if they flop the first time I said come back, and then since then they proliferated.” 

News of the reopening was music to the ears of Bay Area musicians, especially since numerous other live music clubs have closed in the city in recent years. Veteran bandleader Mitch Woods said the club is badly needed for both audiences and musicians alike. 

“It means a lot, especially for local Bay Area musicians like myself,” said Woods, who leads his band Rocket 88s. “I tour all over the world, but when I’m home I play all the clubs in the Bay Area, and that was always one of the best spots, if not the best spot.” 

As reopening day neared, the club on Mason and Geary was abuzz as Suen and his wife Tina — along with an armada of workers — were making last-minute tweaks. Suen said he was dealing with city inspectors and trying to navigate a myriad of red tape on the way to reopening. He’d discovered than in the five years the club was closed, fees and other prices had skyrocketed. 

“The insurance premium shot up five times even though we never have any claim,” he said.

Inside the main room, tables were each illuminated by a silver lamp. The stage was cast in a deep blue hue and filled with amplifiers and a drum set ready for the first batch of musicians. Suen upgraded the sound system and audio visuals. The club’s stage, which is flanked by wooden barn doors, has hosted the royalty of the blues genre, from Charlie Musselwhite to Joe Louis Walker to Chris Cain. 

Suen, who began working at the club more than two decades back before taking over, was looking forward to seeing his stage back in action. 

Joe Rosato Jr./NBC Bay Area Biscuits and Blues is scheduled to reopen on Thursday after a five-year closure due to a flood.

“When the music flows you really forget about life for a while,” Suen said. “I’m definitely waiting for that to happen.” 

Woods was hopeful the reopening of the club would give a shot in the arm to the struggling Union Square neighborhood, which has lost numerous major department stores, including the pending closure of Macy’s. 

“I hope it revitalizes that area. It’s a shame to see the businesses go out as the center of San Francisco,” said Woods. “I think it’ll be a good flagship to have a good nightclub there.” 

Although returning from a five-year layoff might seem daunting, Suen reasoned he’s already survived a recession and a pandemic. He said he believes the area has hit bottom and is on the verge of a rebound. The blues, he figures, is the kind of powerful medicine it needs. 

“I have hope and I have faith the city will do whatever it takes to bring the city back to life,” Suen said. “So me at this club, I believe that I’m part of it.”  

author photo
About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.